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Energy System Transition Through Stakeholder Activation, Education and Skills Development

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENTRUST (Energy System Transition Through Stakeholder Activation, Education and Skills Development)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2018-04-30

ENTRUST aimed to contribute to the transition towards a more sustainable energy system. The environmental, economic and societal risks associated with climate change requires a move away from the carbon-based fossil fuels that currently supply most of our energy. However, the nature of the alternative energy sources means that this is not just a simple matter of replacing fuel sources. The required changes to the energy system requires technological innovation, but also substantial changes in the way people live their lives and in their relationships with energy and the energy system. Thus, understanding the human and societal aspects of the energy system is a necessary component of a successful energy transition. This presents a significant challenge, as the ways in which people relate to the energy system and consume energy are shaped by existing technologies, infrastructure, practices, social conventions, values, attitudes and perceptions.

To address this challenge, the ENTRUST project worked with six communities across Europe to achieve a number of objectives. Specifically, the project worked to:
• develop an understanding of public awareness and perceptions of, attitudes towards, and behaviours and practices relevant to energy related technologies;
• analyse the role and significance of socio-demographic attributes (especially gender, age, socio-economic privilege) on energy-related practices, behaviours and attitudes;
• determine the awareness and perceptions of potential 'decarbonisation' paths and to explore the possible effect of practices, behaviour and attitudes within the communities on these paths;
• facilitate the communities to envision potential sustainable energy futures;
• develop a web-based knowledge and communications platform to stimulate a public dialogue.
"A substantial preliminary work package was 'mapping' the energy system. This involved producing a descriptive analysis of the energy system, detailing key actors, summarising their key roles, and identifying critical strategic points of interaction. Three public reports (available from the project website) were produced as a result of this work, namely: D2.1 ""Energy System Stakeholder Characterisation"", D2.2 ""Energy Technological Review"" and D2.3 ""Novel business models and main barriers in the EU energy system"".

Understanding the public policy context of the energy system was also a very important preparatory work package within the project. The work involved reviewing the policies impacting on the energy system in six countries (FR, DE, IE, IT, ES, UK) and assessing the potential “Europeanisation” of the energy policy landscape. Five public reports (available from the project website) were produced as a result of this work, namely: D4.1 ""Report on policy & regulation landscape""; D4.2 ""Europeanisation of national policy dialogues on energy pathways""; D4.3 ""Review of market-driven approaches in sustainable energy policies""; D4.4 ""Identification and Characterisation of Energy Behaviour Change Initiatives""; D4.5 “Policy toolkit”. An additional output developed as a means of further exploiting this work is the We-Actum policy platform http://www.weactum.eu

Central to the project's design was the community-based research approach adopted. Following a selection process, six communities in five European countries (FR, IE, IT, ES, UK) were selected and a bespoke engagement plan prepared for each. A significant programme of engagement was conducted including: public awareness events, interviews, focus groups, citizen juries, etc. For the first stage of this engagement, the emphasis was very much capturing the participants’ energy-related understandings, perceptions, attitudes, practices and behaviours. The latter part of the engagement was focus on enabling the citizens to collectively envision their desired energy future through informed deliberation using a form of mini-public – the citizen. Three public reports (available from the project website) were produced as a result of this work, namely: D5.1 “Report on Community Dialogues”, D5.2 “Report on Expert Feedback on Community Dialogue Outcomes”, D5.3 “Energy Management Approaches for Sustainable Communities”.

A core part of the project was the in-depth analyses of the information gathered in each of the communities. The objective of this work was to provide a deep understanding of human behaviour and practices in relation to energy, and their attitude towards energy technologies and how they are shaped by a variety of attributes, including in particular: gender, age and socio-economic privilege. Four public reports (available from the project website) were produced as a result of this work, namely: D3.1 ""Survey of socio-demographic data on energy practices"", D3.2 “Intersectional analysis of energy practices”, D3.3 “Intersectional analysis of perceptions and attitudes towards energy technologies”, D3.4 “Synthesis report on socio-economic, technical, market and policy analyses”. The data collected in this work package represents a valuable data set for future analysis and research and offer much scope for future exploitation.

Specific work was conducted identifying and evaluating potential energy transition pathways i.e. determining means through which the newly developed understandings of technology, behaviour and integrated socio-technical interventions can best support a transition to a low carbon energy system. four public reports (available from the project website) were produced as a result of this work, namely: D6.1 “Report on Low-Carbon Configurations”, D6.2 “Report on Practices and Technology Deployment for Efficiency”, D6.3 “Report on Innovation Pathways to Transition”, D6.4 “Innovative Business Models to Foster Transition”.

A knowledge and communication platform https://energy-communities.net was developed as a legacy of the project as a means to disseminate and share knowledge and to facilitate and promote dialogue on energy efficiency and transitioning to a low carbon system. The platform, which is considered an exploitable output of the project

Outputs of the project were dissemination widely in open-access journal articles, at academic conferences, trade fairs, and at joint event with other H2020 funded projects – details of which are available from the project website http://www.entrust-h2020.eu
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A review of the scientific literature by Sovacool (2014) found that there has been a dearth of social science oriented qualitative research in ‘energy scholarship’ generally. Even the limited qualitative research that does exist tends to be structured to produce a ‘thin’ description linking socio-demographic characteristics to specific behaviours in a rather functionalist manner, rather than trying to understand people’s practices within the broader social context, and how that context may inform those practices. ENTRUST sough to move beyond such limited approaches to capture a rich, ‘thick’, description which gives context, elaborates on intentions and meanings, and traces the development of phenomena. In this way, the project provides a deeper understanding of the human and societal aspects of both energy consumption and the energy system in general. This understanding of people’s relationship with energy can contribute to the creation of an energy transition that meets environmental and economic requirements, while also finding public acceptability and meeting the wider needs of society.